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20lbs of Headlines

by MARK CARTER

Dylan dominated the press around the world during January 2003 merely by turning up at the Sundance Festival to mark the first public airing of “work in progress” (i.e. all the bits that the audience didn't understand will be chopped out) Masked And Anonymous. True to form, he turned up attired like a wino on Dressing-down Day with a scowl on his face that suggested that he would have preferred to be having a red-hot poker shoved up his anus than to be where he was right then. Of course, the press had a field day; firstly taking the piss out of his appearance and then taking the piss out of his movie. He must be the only bloke to stand as close as this to Jessica Lange and still look miserable. 

His Spring tour of the USA garnered some   more favourable print, though Dave Ferman, reviewing the Dallas show for the Star-Telegram was tentative; “...I've seen him better, and I’ve seen him far worse. A great show? Hardly. A fair show with a few great moments? Definitely.” 

The Tennessean's Craig Havighurst enjoyed the Nashville show, especially the newer material, and felt that the encores were “much more than perfunctory, though he’s played them for 30 years. At the end, Dylan's face was a stolid mask, but he sort of blew a kiss and I’d swear there was a tear in his eye.” 

A review of Atlanta’s Music Midtown festival on www.richar-wood.com included two onstage photos but was briefer than Bob’s 10-song set; “...All in all, an intense, magical performance from an old master.” 

At Florida’s SunFest festival The Palm Beach Post’s Thorn Smith was impressed enough but was even more impressed by the fact that Dylan took time out to meet a group of fans after the show; “A young man who got a bear hug was speechless, almost in tears.” 

The News Observer’s David Menconi, reviewing the Regency Park Ampitheatre gig, again found the material from the past six years to be the most impressive. In fact, only Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door disappointed mainly because opening act The Waifs joined in and they sang in key while Dylan - surprisingly - didn’t bother. Presumably he did sing in a key but it was probably a new one that he’d just then made up. 

Meanwhile, Dylan’s other forays in front of the cameras were hitting the headlines, especially the upcoming BBC documentary to be made by Martin Scorsese, mainly because Bob has agreed to be interviewed for it - the first time he has consented to open his heart in such a way since 1986’s enjoyable Getting To Dylan. It promises to be good. Possibly not so promising will be Todd Haynes’ forthcoming biopic of Dylan’s life in which he will be played by seven actors, including a woman and an 11 year-old black boy. Still, Bob or someone who tells him what to do must think it sounds exciting because his office has given Haynes permission to use any songs that he wants. Amazing. 

Even more amazing is Germany’s Der Spiegel’s claim that the German publisher of Chronicles is convinced that the book(s) will be in the shops before Christmas 2003.

Well, call me Mr. Cynical, but I have my doubts. I wouldn't even be willing to bet two rusty tap washers on it being published before Christmas 2010. 

Staying in Germany, where their edition of Rolling Stone celebrated it’s 100th issue with a poll of editorial staff to pick the best 100 albums of the past eight years. Time Out Of Mind came in at number one (“...With TOOM, Dylan suddenly transformed from a parody to the old celebrated bluesman and traveling singer. His Neverending Tour became a triumph”) and Love And Theft hit number ten (“...The songs are his most humorous exuberant recordings since the Basement Tapes sessions with the Band in 1967”). 

In April’s Mojo Wyclef Jean nominated Infidels as a record that changed his life; “...It's incredible. It’s one of those records you can always go back to and listen to. And I know, when I hear it, that it’s gonna make me feel inspired, the exact same way as it did when I first got it.”  And, within the pages of the reliable Sun (reliable to be utter shite each and every day), the reliable Jeremy Clarkson (reliable to be an utter twat each and every day) bemoaned the fact that there were no protest singers in today’s processed music scene like there were back in The Olden Days when “every time the Guardian king, Bob Dylan, picked up his guitar, another stream of wishy-washy liberalism streamed on to the airwaves.”  Not a fan then? 

The Times’ Andrew Heavens (no pun intended, presumably) took a look back at Dylan’s shaky Christian period in the wake of the release of The Gospel Songs Of Bob Dylan, whilst Steve Terrell of The New Mexican reckoned that this “terrific record” contained some of Dylan’s angriest songs since Masters Of War. 

During May, Lenni Brenner of www.counterpunch put himself forward as the one person who single-handedly put Dylan’s career on the front burner. He shared a room with Dylan in the Village during the Winter of 1961 and, after hearing Dylan singing yet another old folk number, berated him; “Bob, you never saw a boll weevil. Mark (Spoelstra) never did. None of us have. If one flew in the window, or crawled in under the door, or whatever the hell they do, we wouldn't recognize it. Stop singing about boll weevils and sing about your own life and times.”  Dylan responded with; “That’s what Joe Williams told me!” and - yes, you’ve guessed it - went off to write his own songs. I can’t say I’ve ever heard of Lenni Brenner and the whole thing sounds like a fairy tale or a Walt Disney cartoon in which the scruffy - yet promising - young urchin suddenly realises that - TING! - yes, he can write his own songs and heads off for fame and fortune, yet Brenner insists that it’s true. For the next two years he insists he was Bob’s muse and guru until Dylan left the shared room, saying  “I have to do some writing”. We wipe away a tear as the credits roll and Brenner philosophises; “Yea verily, a bright young fellow came into that pad, a full man went out”.  I’m not sure if it’s Brenner’s quasi-religious tone (“Bob approved of the double miracle, the conversion of a profound vessel into capitalist lucre, and then into coffee and snacks, because he also had a contemptuous familiarity with Reform’s instant platitudes”) or his utter conviction that he and Joe Williams created the greatest genius that rock ‘n’ roll has ever produced, but this article irritates me greatly. I cannot recommend that even the staunchest Dylan fan reads it, yet, in a strange way, I do. 

By the way, what the fuck is a boll weevil and why would Dylan want to sing about one? 

And on that bombshell.....

THANKS TO: DEREK AND TRACY BARKER, JENS WINTER AND MUM & DAD.

 
 
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